Writing a comprehensive report in special education



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WRITING A COMPREHENSIVE REPORT IN SPECIAL EDUCATION

  • National Association of Special Education Teachers

Overview of Report Writing

  • Many different professionals may provide input in the assessment of a child with a suspected disability. When this occurs, a comprehensive report based on the findings must be written.
  • The purpose of this report is to communicate results in such a way that the reader will understand the rationale behind the recommendations, and will be able to use the recommendations as practical guidelines for intervention.

Overview of Report Writing

  • This report may be presented to the parent, sent to an outside doctor or agency, or presented to the Eligibility Committee. In any case, the report needs to be professional, comprehensive, and practical.
  • Writing a good report is a real skill. The fact is, all the wonderful data collection becomes useless if it cannot be interpreted and explained in a clear and concise manner.

Overview of Report Writing

  • For example, being too general or explaining results poorly creates many problems and confusion for readers.
  • Also, citing numerous general recommendations will not be practical for the school, teacher, or parents.
  • Writing a report that contains jargon that no one other than you understands is also useless.
  • Completing an extremely lengthy report in an attempt to be too comprehensive will result only in losing your reader.

PRACTICAL GUIDELINES FOR REPORT WRITING

  • When writing a report, the key is to be as comprehensive as possible while being clear and concise. To do this effectively, it is important to understand some very practical guidelines. Listed below are some practical guidelines to follow when writing an educational report.

PRACTICAL GUIDELINES FOR REPORT WRITING

  • Write the report in the third person using phrases such as:
  • According to the examiner
  • It was felt that
  • There seems to be
  • It is the professional opinion of this evaluator that
  • Never write “I think” or “If it were up to me” This is not a term paper but, rather, a legal document. As such, the professional approach is to remain in the third person.

PRACTICAL GUIDELINES FOR REPORT WRITING

  • Single space your report to condense the length.
  • A report of three to five pages is not overwhelming. There are several ideas suggested throughout this chapter that can break up the report so that the format is very easy on the reader.

PRACTICAL GUIDELINES FOR REPORT WRITING

  • Try to write the report in the past tense as often as possible.
  • Because the data were already collected, and you have done the assessment, the use of the past tense is most appropriate. For example:
  • On the Reading subtest, Billy scored in the 95th percentile.
  • During testing, Sally exhibited shyness.
  • Throughout the interview, Tommy showed no signs of hyperactivity.
  • Sally appeared to lack confidence when doing tasks that required hand–eye coordination.

PRACTICAL GUIDELINES FOR REPORT WRITING

  • Always separate sections (e.g., Reason for Referral and Background History) by skipping two lines. This is done simply for purposes of clarity.
  • Underline, bold, or italicize paragraph headings so that they stand out and are easy to locate.
  • Anytime you create a new section in your report, underline it so that the reader knows that this starts a different area of the report.

PRACTICAL GUIDELINES FOR REPORT WRITING

  • Write reports using complete sentences.
  • A report should never read like a telegram. Be sure all sentences make sense. Always check spelling and grammar to make sure there are no errors. Nothing is more unprofessional than a report that looks sloppy and has many mistakes.

CRITERIA FOR WRITING A COMPREHENSIVE REPORT

  • Now that you have some practical guidelines to follow, let us take a comprehensive look at each specific section. Reports can be written in many ways, and report format is decided by the personal choice of the examiner, the supervisor, or the district.
  • However, it is important not to overlook certain information. What follows is one suggested outline and steps that would meet all the criteria for a professional and comprehensive report.

STEP I Identifying Data

  • The first section is called Identifying Data and contains all the necessary basic information about the child. This section is important to the reader, especially if further contact is required. It allows the reader to have all the basic information in one place. The parts of this section include:

Identifying Data

  • Name:
  • Parents’ Names:
  • Address:
  • Teacher:
  • Phone:
  • Referred By:
  • Date of Birth:
  • Date/s of Testing:
  • Grade:
  • Date of Report:
  • School:
  • Examiner:
  • Chronological Age at Time of Testing (CA):

Identifying Data

  • Name: Sally Jones
  • Parents’ Names: Paul and Mary Jones
  • Address: 123 ABC Street, ABC City, New York 10007
  • Teacher: Mrs. Johnson
  • Phone: (516) 555-5555
  • Referred By: Mrs. Karen Johnson, Mother
  • Date of Birth: 8-17-92
  • Date/s of Testing: 9-17-01, 9-18-01
  • Grade: 4
  • Date of Report: 9-25-01
  • School: XYZ Elementary School
  • Examiner: Ms. Jane Doe, M.S.
  • Chronological Age at Time of Testing (CA): 9-1

Identifying Data

  • Some evaluations are finished several months before the report is typed, and the scores can be misleading if the reader assumes that they represent the child’s present levels on the date of the report when they may really be reflective of ability levels in prior months.
  • It is always more acceptable when the two dates are within one month of each other. Also keep in mind that the chronological age, CA, is at the time of initial testing and is presented in years and months, for example, 12-6

STEP II. Reason for Referral

  • The second section is called Reason for Referral, and explains to the reader the specific reasons why this evaluation is taking place. It should not be longer than two to three sentences, but should be comprehensive enough to clarify the purpose. The following are some examples of this section:

STEP II. Reason for Referral

  • Jarmel was referred by his teacher for an evaluation as a result of inconsistent academic performance and poor social skills.
  • Mary was referred by her parents for an evaluation in order to determine if a learning disability was interfering with her ability to learn.
  • Benjamin is being tested as part of the triennial evaluation.
  • Matthew is being screened for a suspected disability.
  • Sally was referred by the child study team in order to determine his present intellectual, academic, and perceptual levels.

STEP II. Reason for Referral

  • This section should not contain a great deal of parent or teacher information. There may be a tendency here to bring in other information to substantiate the reason for the evaluation. Avoid this, and keep it short and to the point. Substantiation for this referral is part of another section that offers a more detailed explanation of the child.

STEP III. Background History

  • The next section is called Background History, and contains a very thorough description of the child’s family history, developmental history, academic history, and social history
  • This general section is very comprehensive and establishes a foundation for what will follow. If you suspect a disability that may have historical features, then you need to present the development of this disability and its interfering factors in depth. The reader should come away from the section seeing the substantiation for a suspected disability. Certain areas should always be covered in the Background History section. These include:

Family History

  • A family history provides the reader with a general understanding of the family structure, siblings, parental perceptions, and so on. Examples of sentences that would appear in this section include the following:
  • Billy lives at home with his mother and a younger brother, Tommy. His parents are divorced and Billy has no contact with his father.
  • Sally lives at home with her father, mother, and two older sisters.
  • Sally is an only child who was adopted at the age of six months by her parents, Ted and Jane. She knows that she is adopted and has never had any contact with her biological parents.

Developmental History

  • The purpose of a developmental history is to give the reader any relevant background history pertaining to developmental milestones. This section need not read like a hospital report but should contain the basic developmental history. Examples of sentences that would appear in this section include the following:
  • All of Billy’s developmental milestones were reached in the normal limits.
  • Sally started to talk only at 2 years of age and received early intervention to help her with language ability.
  • Sally had many ear infections during the first year of life and needed tubes put in when he was 13 months of age.
  • Sally started to walk later than the norms, as she started at 21 months of age.

Academic History 

  • An academic history section provides the reader with relevant academic performance during the child’s school years. If you suspect a learning disability, then the academic section must be extensive. Trace the child’s educational performance as far back as possible and establish the consistency of the pattern to the reader. Include all pertinent academic information such as past teacher comments, grades, attendance, group scores, and the like; and lead the reader grade by grade in establishing a pattern of concern or a pattern that may rule out a specific type of suspected disability. Example sentences used in this section might read as follows:

Academic History 

  • Sally has always done poorly in math and has never received a grade of higher than C in this subject throughout his educational career.
  • Sally’s first-grade teacher reported that she had great difficulty in the area of spelling.
  • Sally’s Reading scores on the ABC National Standardized Test were well below the norm (8th Percentile) when he took it two years ago in the fourth grade.

Social History  

  • A social history provides the reader with an understanding of the child in his social world. Group participation, organizations, hobbies, interests, interaction with peers, social style, and so forth should all be discussed. Examples of sentences that would appear in this section include the following:

Social History  

  • According to Billy, he enjoys playing baseball and hanging out with his friends at the mall.
  • Sally reported that she has no friends and does not participate in any extracurricular activities.
  • Teddy is the eleventh-grade class president of his school and plays on the junior varsity basketball and varsity baseball teams.
  • When the Background History section is complete, it should provide the reader with a clear understanding of the child and his or her world at the present time.

Final Points About Background History

  • When the Background History section is complete, it should provide the reader with a clear understanding of the child and his or her world at the present time.

STEP IV: Behavioral Observations

  • The fourth section is called Behavioral Observations and includes a description of the child’s behavior during the testing sessions. This can be a very important section because it may reinforce what is seen in the class or be very different, in which case the structure of the testing environment should be explored for clues to learning style.

Behavioral Observations

  • Here, for the first time, you are providing the reader with your professional and firsthand observation of this child in a controlled setting. This type of structure provides a great deal of valuable information that may be later transferred to recommendations about the way in which the child learns best. Examples of sentences that would appear in this section include the following:

Behavioral Observations

  • Sally approached the testing situation in a reluctant and hesitant manner.
  • During testing, it was evident that Sally was frustrated with many of the reading tasks.
  • Throughout the assessment, Sally appeared anxious and nervous, as she was biting her nails and always asking whether her answers were correct.

Tests and Procedures Administered

  • The next section is called Tests and Procedures Administered. This includes a simple list of the individual tests included in the test battery and any procedures used to enhance the report, such as classroom observation, review of records, and parent intake.
  • Do not utilize abbreviations when referring to test names. You may want to add them after the name of each specific test, for example, Wide Range Achievement Test—3rd Edition (WRAT-3).
  • No further explanation is required here other than a list. This section will vary depending upon the professional doing the evaluation. For example, the educational evaluator’s list of tests and procedures administered may look like this:

Tests and Procedures Administered

  • Wechsler Individual Achievement Test—2nd Edition (WIAT-2)
  • Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitudes—4th Edition (DTLA-4)
  • Gray Oral Reading Test—4rd Edition (GORT-4)
  • Classroom observation
  • Interview with child
  • Parent interview
  • Teacher conferences
  • Review of cumulative records

STEP VI. Test Results

  • The sixth section, Test Results, is a crucial one because it analyzes the results of each test and looks at the child’s individual performance on each measure. There are several approaches to this section, but the two most widely used approaches are the test by test analysis and the content area by content area analysis. The approach chosen is the personal choice and preference of the examiner.

Step 1 for Writing Test Results: Write out the Name of the Test

  • Wechsler Individualized Achievement Test, 2nd edition

Step 2 for Writing Test Results: Create a Table

  • Create a Table which could include the following:
  • Standard Score
  • Classification
  • Percentile Rank
  • Stanine
  • Age/Grade Equivalent

Create a Table

  • Name of Subtest Std Classification Percentile
  • Score Rank
  • Word Reading 85 Low Average 16
  • Numerical Operat. 135 Very Superior 99
  • Spelling 110 High Average 75
  • Reading Comprehension 70 Well Below Avg. 2

Step 3 for Writing Test Results: Write a brief a brief 1-2 sentence statement

  • Step 3 for Writing Test Results:
  • Write a brief a brief 1-2 sentence statement about what each subtest measures (This is obtained through the Examiner’s Manual)
  • **Each subtest is a different paragraph (In our example we need to write separate paragraphs)

Step 3 for Writing Test Results: Write a brief a brief 1-2 sentence statement

  • The Word Reading subtest of the WIAT-II presents a series of pictures and printed words for assessing decoding and word-reading ability. Only the accuracy of the pronunciation is scored; not comprehension.
  • The Numerical Operations subtest of the WIAT-II consists of a series of problems with pencil and paper for assessing the ability to reason mathematically.
  • The Spelling subtest of the WIAT-II requires the student to spell a target word based on its meaning in a sentence.
  • The Reading Comprehension subtest of the WIAT-II presents stories for the student to read. The student is then asked a question about the story orally, to which she must orally respond with an answer.

Step 4--Report the Transformed Scores that you determined from the Examiner’s Manual

  • Report the student’s standard score, classification, and percentile for each subtest.
  • You are reiterating what is stated on the table (and more, if available)

Report the Transformed Scores that you determined from the Examiner’s Manual

  • The Word Reading subtest of the WIAT-II presents a series of pictures and printed words for assessing decoding and word-reading ability. Only the accuracy of the pronunciation is scored; not comprehension.
  • On this subtest, Sally performance was in the Low Average range, earning a standard score of 85. As indicated by her percentile rank of 16, Sally performed as well or better than 16 percent of all students when compared to the norms for her age.

Report the Transformed Scores that you determined from the Examiner’s Manual

  • The Numerical Operations subtest of the WIAT-II consists of a series of problems with pencil and paper for assessing the ability to reason mathematically.
  • On this subtest, Sally performance was in the Very Superior range, earning a standard score of 135. As indicated by her percentile rank of 99, Sally performed as well or better than 99 percent of all students when compared to the norms for her age.

Report the Transformed Scores that you determined from the Examiner’s Manual

  • The Spelling subtest of the WIAT-II requires the student to spell a target word based on its meaning in a sentence.
  • On this subtest, Sally performance was in the High Average range, earning a standard score of 110. As indicated by her percentile rank of 75, Sally performed as well or better than 75 percent of all students when compared to the norms for her age.

Report the Transformed Scores that you determined from the Examiner’s Manual

  • The Reading Comprehension subtest of the WIAT-II presents stories for the student to read. The student is then asked a question about the story orally, to which she must orally respond with an answer.
  • On this subtest, Sally performance was in the Well Below Average range, earning a standard score of 70. As indicated by her percentile rank of 2, Sally performed as well or better than 2 percent of all students when compared to the norms for her age.

Step 5 for Writing Test Results: Finally, make a statement regarding something to note about the student’s performance on each subtest

  • The Word Reading subtest of the WIAT-II presents a series of pictures and printed words for assessing decoding and word-reading ability. Only the accuracy of the pronunciation is scored; not comprehension. On this subtest, Sally performance was in the Low Average range, earning a standard score of 85. As indicated by her percentile rank of 16, Sally performed as well or better than 16 percent of all students when compared to the norms for her age.
  • An analysis of Sally’s errors indicated that she often added and omitted syllables when reading words. Her reading speed was slow, and self-corrected herself on five different words. An analysis of Sally’s errors indicated that she often added and omitted syllables when reading words. Her reading speed was slow and she self-corrected herself on five different words.

Make a statement regarding something to note about the student’s performance on each subtest

  • The Numerical Operations subtest of the WIAT-II consists of a series of problems with pencil and paper for assessing the ability to reason mathematically. On this subtest, Sally performance was in the Very Superior range, earning a standard score of 135. As indicated by her percentile rank of 99, Sally performed as well or better than 99 percent of all students when compared to the norms for her age.
  • Sally’s shows a strong ability with mathematical problems. On the only two division errors that she made, her errors were due to simple miscalculations that had more to do with carelessness and rushing rather than anything else. Her scores represent a normative strength for her.

Make a statement regarding something to note about the student’s performance on each subtest

  • The Spelling subtest of the WIAT-II requires the student to spell a target word based on its meaning in a sentence. On this subtest, Sally performance was in the High Average range, earning a standard score of 110. As indicated by her percentile rank of 75, Sally performed as well or better than 75 percent of all students when compared to the norms for her age.
  • Analysis of Sally’s errors reveals that she most often either added a single letter or omitted a single letter when misspelling words. The majority of errors were made toward the end of the subtest as the items increased in level of difficulty

Make a statement regarding something to note about the student’s performance on each subtest

  • The Reading Comprehension subtest of the WIAT-II presents stories for the student to read. The student is then asked a question about the story orally, to which she must orally respond with an answer. On this subtest, Sally performance was in the Well Below Average range, earning a standard score of 70. As indicated by her percentile rank of 2, Sally performed as well or better than 2 percent of all students when compared to the norms for her age.
  • Sally made numerous errors on items that involved the skill of drawing conclusions and making inferences. She had difficulty recognizing stated detail, predicting events and outcomes, and identifying the main ideas of passages. As compared to Sally’s achievement on other subtests on the WIAT-II, her standard score of 70 on the Reading Comprehension subtest represents a relative weakness for her.

MODEL TEST RESULTS SECTION

  • Name of Subtest Std Classification Percentile
  • Score Rank
  • Word Reading 85 Low Average 16
  • Numerical Operations 135 Very Superior 99
  • Spelling 110 High Average 75
  • Reading Comprehension 70 Well Below Average 2

MODEL TEST RESULTS SECTION

  • The Word Reading subtest of the WIAT-II presents a series of pictures and printed words for assessing decoding and word-reading ability. Only the accuracy of the pronunciation is scored; not comprehension. On this subtest, Sally performance was in the Low Average range, earning a standard score of 85. As indicated by her percentile rank of 16, Sally performed as well or better than 16 percent of all students when compared to the norms for her age. An analysis of Sally’s errors indicated that she often added and omitted syllables when reading words. Her reading speed was slow, and she self-corrected herself on five different words.

MODEL TEST RESULTS SECTION

  • The Numerical Operations subtest of the WIAT-II consists of a series of problems with pencil and paper for assessing the ability to reason mathematically. On this subtest, Sally performance was in the Very Superior range, earning a standard score of 135. As indicated by her percentile rank of 99, Sally performed as well or better than 99 percent of all students when compared to the norms for her age. Sally’s shows a strong ability with mathematical problems. On the only two division errors that she made, her errors were due to simple miscalculations that had more to do with carelessness and rushing rather than anything else. Her scores represent a normative strength for her.

MODEL TEST RESULTS SECTION

  • The Spelling subtest of the WIAT-II requires the student to spell a target word based on its meaning in a sentence. On this subtest, Sally performance was in the High Average range, earning a standard score of 110. As indicated by her percentile rank of 75, Sally performed as well or better than 75 percent of all students when compared to the norms for her age. Analysis of Sally’s errors reveals that she most often either added a single letter or omitted a single letter when misspelling words. The majority of errors were made toward the end of the subtest as the items increased in level of difficulty

MODEL TEST RESULTS SECTION

  • The Reading Comprehension subtest of the WIAT-II presents stories for the student to read. The student is then asked a question about the story orally, to which she must orally respond with an answer. On this subtest, Sally performance was in the Well Below Average range, earning a standard score of 70. As indicated by her percentile rank of 2, Sally performed as well or better than 2 percent of all students when compared to the norms for her age. Sally made numerous errors on items that involved the skill of drawing conclusions and making inferences. She had difficulty recognizing stated detail, predicting events and outcomes, and identifying the main ideas of passages. As compared to Sally’s achievement on other subtests on the WIAT-II, her standard score of 70 on the Reading Comprehension subtest represents a relative weakness for her.

STEP VII: Conclusions

  • The Conclusions section is probably the essence of the report. Here the examiner explains in very simple terms to the reader the trends in the child’s testing results that may indicate academic strengths and weaknesses, modality strengths and weaknesses, process strengths and weaknesses, and overall diagnosis and level of severity of the problems areas indicated. It is not a restatement of the test results section but a summary of overall performance.

Conclusions

  • State name of student, age, and grade and the reason for referral
  • Sally Jones is a thirteen-year-old seventh grade girl who was administered the WIAT-II for the purposes of assessing her academic achievement.

Conclusions

  • Next sentence discuss strengths
  • The areas of spelling and mathematics (numerical operations) appear to be Sally’s greatest strengths.

Conclusions

  • Next few sentences discuss weaknesses
  • Sally appears to have difficulties in both reading and reading comprehension. Sally made numerous errors on items that involved the skill of drawing conclusions and making inferences. She had difficulty recognizing stated detail, predicting events and outcomes, and identifying the main ideas of passages. Furthermore, Sally often added and omitted syllables when reading words. Her reading speed was slow and she self-corrected herself on five different words.

Conclusions

  • Add a sentence or 2 about behavior
  • Sally appears to be lacking academic self-confidence. She is frustrated by school and has difficulty making friends

Model Conclusion

  • Sally Jones is a thirteen-year-old seventh grade girl who was administered the WIAT-II for the purposes of assessing her academic achievement. The areas of spelling and mathematics (numerical operations) appear to be Sally’s greatest strengths. Sally appears to have difficulties in both reading and reading comprehension. Sally made numerous errors on items that involved the skill of drawing conclusions and making inferences. She had difficulty recognizing stated detail, predicting events and outcomes, and identifying the main ideas of passages. Furthermore, Sally often added and omitted syllables when reading words. Sally appears to be lacking academic self-confidence. She is frustrated by school and has difficulty making friends.

STEP VIII: Recommendations

  • The last section of the report is probably the most valuable section for the reader—Recommendations. It should contain practical recommendations that will bring some hope and direction for the identified problem areas.

Recommendations

  • Keep in mind that the recommendations should be practical enough and explained in such a way that the reader will have no problem following through.
  • For example, a recommendation to a parent of “Try to spend more time with Jarmel” is useless. It provides the reader with no direction or specifics. Instead, a recommendation such as “Read at home with Jarmel in unison. By this, we mean that both you and Jarmel have the same book and read aloud together so that he receives constant auditory feedback.”
  • This more detailed recommendation provides the reader with specific direction.

Recommendations

  • Try to separate the recommendations into the following two or three sections:
  • Recommendations to the school
  • Recommendations to the teacher
  • (In many cases, school & teacher recommendations can be combined)
  • Recommendations to the parent

Recommendations

  • Recommendations to the school: This section might contain suggestions such as further testing from other professionals on staff, vision or hearing tests by the school nurse, recommendation for a review by the Eligibility Committee, remedial reading assistance, or an ESL evaluation.

Recommendations

  • Recommendations to the teacher: This section should contain useful information for the teacher including an indication of the conditions under which the child learns best. The teacher is probably mainly interested in “What do I do to help the child learn?” Keep in mind that even before you begin the evaluation process, you should ask the teacher what he or she has already tried in an attempt to alleviate the problems. This should be done so that your recommendations do not include suggestions already attempted by the teacher. Doing this will avoid having your recommendations being viewed as “nothing I haven’t already tried before.”

Recommendations

  • Recommendations to the parent: This part should be very practical, direct, and diplomatic. The suggestions should also be inclusive enough to answer the questions “why” and “how” so that parents do not have to interpret them.

Recommendations

  • RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE TEACHERS AND SCHOOL
  • 1. Help Sally with her organizational skills by speaking to her teachers about her difficulties in organization.
  • 2. Make sure all of Sally’s teachers understand her disability. All teachers should be aware of where Sally’s limitations lie and do whatever is necessary to help her.
  • 3. Do not count spelling errors when giving Sally a grade on a project. Instead, allow Sally to fix her mistakes at home so that she can resubmit her work without penalty.
  • 4. To further develop feelings of success, always design spelling problems in ascending order of difficulty.

Recommendations

  • RECOMMENDATIONS TO SALLY’S PARENTS
  • 1. Be patient and understand that Sally will need more time than other students her age when it comes to reading, writing, and spelling.
  • 2. Work with Sally at home, helping her on various educational concepts that she has difficulty understanding.
  • 3. Provide much positive reinforcement, verbal praise, and word of encouragement.
  • 4. Help Sally deal with her frustration levels by letting her know that you will help her in any way that you can.

Be Sure to SIGN Your Report

  • ______Your Signature_______________
  • Sandra Smith, M.A., Educational Evaluator


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